The Differences that Make a Difference: William James on the Importance of Individuals
European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy, Vol. 2, p. 1, 2010
11 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2010
Date Written: June 23, 2010
William James’s "On the Importance of Individuals" (1890) is part of his contribution to the long-running late-nineteenth-century debate on the question of "great men" in history. C. S. Peirce also took an interest in this question, but from a statistical angle apparently at odds with James more intuitive, anecdotal approach. A comparative study, however, reveals the attractive possibility of combining ideas from Peirce and ideas from James to arrive at a subtler understanding of what statistical social-scientific study can, and what it cannot, do, and a more complete theory of inquiry that will accommodate both the individual contributions that James highlights, and the social mechanisms of correction and adjustment that Peirce stresses.
Keywords: William James, C. S. Peirce, Individual vs. Community, Great Men in History, Social Determinism, Theory of Inquiry
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